My schoolmates -part 1.
The breeze created waves on the fully-grown, ready to reap, glistening golden paddy ears, grown abundantly in the vast expanse of land, towards my left, towards my right, wherever my eyes turned to. I was on my way to my school,’ Municipal Elementary School’, ‘padathil’ school for all of us, as it was located in the center of ‘padams’ or agricultural lands. I walked leisurely enjoying their beauty, awestruck, as if I was seeing those dreamy waves for the first time. This unlimited abundance would have come down from the sky along with the pouring rains, I thought. Even when the crops were fully harvested and the land became barren, dry and uncared for, there was a charm in watching the vast area of brown earth with protruding dry, left-over stem knobs, remaining as a memento of the past glory. One or two birds landed there, to assure the knobs that those were not alone and collected the left over grains, may be a beak-full and fly away without disturbing the Mother Earth under the silence of meditation. Their need is minimum, a few grains, to eat and carry to their younger ones in the nest. And once the sky opened up its flood gates, wah! it was a festival. The farmers driving their yokes with bullocks, making all sorts of sounds, splashing muddy water all over, their women waiting with food and water in mud pots to feed their men when they come off the fields, crows hovering to share the waste food, it was all fun. Then came the sowing and afterwards replanting when the small plants were rearranged in rows by women, young and old, standing in rows, bending their head and body as if to pray to the mother Earth to bless them with abundant crops. For miles and miles, you see only green in its splendor.
The school, not far from my house, was a well-ventilated, high roofed, building with spacious class rooms and vast open lands all around. From the main road we had to tread through a narrow mud path separating the paddy fields and we used to walk holding the shoulder of one another, maintaining the balance so that we don’t get stuck in the loose mud or slip and fall onto the fields.
It was during one of those train-formation, I slipped and fell into the paddy field and when my class teacher Govindan kutty Nair asked why my clothes were dirty, I complained, ‘Annamma pushed me, mashre’. Despite my parents’ instruction not to tell lies, I lied then, as I was afraid of the boy who actually pushed me down. Annamma was a kind girl and I was sure that she won’t expose my weakness. The mighty mashes the meek!
My calculation went wrong. Annamma, jumped from her seat and yelled, “Nuna, sir, it is a lie. I was the engine and he was the guard”. Then she turned towards me and with the seriousness of a teacher declaring the annual exam results, told me, “Engines are to pull and not to push.”
I didn’t like that lesson on train engine; I see a dozen every day from my back yard. “podi, thavale -get lost, you frog”. I shouted back.
Her face didn’t resemble frog’s. It was, in fact, lovely. Nor her voice was course; it was sweet. The teacher looked furiously at me.
“Mani, kay kanikku ,” he raised the cane to flog, but seeing my extended palm, probably, thought about my mother’s hand which had served him food many times.
“Stand up on the bench”. A compromise to satisfy his ‘manasaktshi’ or consciousness and a consolation prize for his duty-awareness. That thrilled Annamma. She covered her face with palms and chuckled. I was proud of my status in the class and standing on the bench was a blow for that. She knew it. Being a flourishing hotelier’s son, I enjoyed some privileges. One teacher or the other used to hold my hand and take me back home, enjoy food, read newspaper and a ‘murukkan’-pan chew along with my father’s witty conversation. In the morning, Sulaiman, our cart driver used to drop me at the entrance to the paddy field pathway. No other students enjoyed such a royal treatment.
When I got down from the bench, Annamma came close, pressed my leg and enquired, “kaalu katanjo-did your leg pain?” I tolerated that with a mum, but when she advised me next,”don’t lie again”, I flared up.
“Get lost fr–” I wanted to shout but turned to the teacher. He was facing the board. I could have scolded her but looked at her face. ‘Poor thing’ I thought and smiled.
“If you call me frog again, I won’t speak to you “threatened Annamma, while returning home that evening.
“You expect me to weep, if you don’ talk to me, eh? “ I am a boy and I should not succumb to her threat. “But you should tell me your frog stories.”
She laughed so loud that her whole body shook. The glass bangles on her puny wrists too laughed along with her. Or I thought so. Then as if she was correcting my home work, she said,” haa, fool, if I don’t talk to you, how will I tell you stories?”
There seems to be sense in what she said. I pulled a handful of grains from the plant and wanted to put into my mouth but suddenly remembered the pea nuts she gave during the lunch interval and handed over more than half of the grains in my hand, ‘edutholu, take “.
The one who pushed me into the paddy field was Govindan, a hefty boy. His mother used to call me often to her house, pet and pamper me. Why, why, Govindan used to wonder. His father, known as ‘attinthala’ Raman Nair, had a tea shop near my dad’s hotel . His head had no shape no doubt, but the nick name ‘attinthala– goat head was dumped on him by a fellow, whom Nair punished for not paying his food bill. The punishment was to crush rice and black gram mix in a big wet grinder of stone to make paste for idly-making. While moving the heavy pestle, the defaulter, murmured, cursing Nair, Initially in a low tune but when the heavy granite pestle refused to move freely, his tone became noisy and at last he screamed, “nintae thala aatinthala- you are goat-headed, you are goat headed”. That nick name got stuck on Nair like the gluey idly mix, which hampered the motion of the granite pestle.
 Idli is a common snack widely used .